Sustainablog

This blog will cover some news items related to Sustainability: Corporate Social Responsibility, Stewardship, Environmental management, etc.

26.5.05

MIT Plans $100 Laptop: Such an inexpensive device could throw laptop manufacturers into a panic, but it also could improve education in remote areas.

MIT Plans $100 Laptop
By Tracy Staedter, Discovery News
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May 25, 2005— Nicholas Negroponte, chairman and founder of the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab, recently unveiled his
plan to provide affordable laptop computers for developing communities —
and do it at a cost of $100 each.
Such an inexpensive device could throw laptop manufacturers into a panic,
but it also could improve education in remote areas.
"This is not an effort to save the third world; it's an effort to get some
of the tools for change in place," said Alan Kay, an early pioneer of
personal computing, who is currently at Hewlett Packard Labs developing
some of the educational software for the laptop.
The prototype is still in development, but the lightweight machine,
measuring no bigger than 10 inches by 8 inches, will come with 1 gigabyte
of flash memory and at least two USB port for plugging in external
devices, such as printers.
At least one manufacturer plans to build a printer for Negroponte's
machine that will sell for $35. Negroponte also hopes to manufacture the
display — the most expensive part of any computer — for under $30.
The laptop will have wireless capabilities and a Linux operating system,
which looks a lot like Microsoft Windows but has the advantage of costing
nothing.
Since batteries are few and far between in developing countries,
Negroponte plans on technologically simple and cheap power methods, such
as turning a hand crank. One minute of cranking would bring 10 minutes of
operating time.
Using a bike to power the machine would bring 100 minutes of power per
minute of pedaling, Negroponte said.
Negroponte's goal is ambitious. He wants third world governments to
provide one laptop per child in entire regions. Several governments have
shown interest. Brazil is expected to purchase 1 million machines, and
China has discussed ordering 3 million.
Additional funding may come from the World Bank and private foundations,
Negroponte said.
Sri Lankan native Bernardine Dias, a research scientist who heads the
TechBridgeWorld initiative at Carnegie Mellon University, has some
reservations about Negroponte's plan.
"I don't know that it is the most useful thing," she said. "You have to
think of the bigger picture of who is going to maintain those computers."